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2010 Republican Congressional Candidate Q&A with Tom Watson

[Noozhawk’s note: Republican congressional candidate Tom Watson missed our deadline for inclusion in Noozhawk’s candidate Q&As series earlier this week. Here are his answers; the other articles have been updated.]

NOOZHAWK: In assessing the tone and lack of bipartisanship in Washington today, it seems that a vast majority of lawmakers represent narrow constituencies on the more extreme ends of the political spectrum, rather than the broad center. Is this a problem? How do you or would you navigate such an environment? What specific steps would you take to change that atmosphere?

Tom Watson
Tom Watson

TOM WATSON: The problem is that we are arguing over truly significant differences in philosophy that are fundamentally incompatible. The Republicans generally favor smaller government, more free market and less regulation, and the Democrats generally favor the opposite. We have huge problems in this country right now and the ultimate direction we choose could well define whether this country maintains its historic position as a beacon of opportunity, growth and advancement or just another low-growth European style social welfare state. It is difficult to compromise on basic principles and that is why we see such polarization. We have arrived at a time of choosing for the country. The debt we have accumulated and the deficits we are running are not a sustainable situation for the country. The lack of bipartisanship is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. One side of the argument will prevail, let’s hope for the sake of our children that we choose to preserve the opportunity option and not the failed social welfare model.

NOOZHAWK: Please provide an example of how you have or would place your constituents’ interests before your party’s.

TW: I have not sought endorsements from politicians and have not spent time climbing the ladder of party politics. I am my own man, I have no favors to repay anyone. My allegiance is to the Constitution, which we swear to defend, to my constituents and to my conscience. My campaign isn’t about party, it is about policy. It is about common sense and whether we are going to bankrupt our country and our children. To the extent my party’s positions align with those interests, then I will support them; if they don’t, I won’t.

NOOZHAWK: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal deficit stands at $1.5 trillion. Please provide three specific steps to reduce that figure.

TW: Federal government spending dramatically needs to be reduced. We have a spending, not a revenue problem. Spending increases in discretionary spending over the last three years need to be rescinded. We have increased domestic discretionary spending by more than 20 percent in just over a year when our economy is in deep recession. Beyond that I support a 5 percent reduction in every federal agency per year until the budget is balanced. If private companies and individuals who pay the taxes can cut their spending, then the government can as well. Cut the lowest performing people in each department at each pay level every year. Government pay and benefits now greatly exceed the private sector; with that they forfeit the implicit job security of a government job.

NOOZHAWK: The CBO recently described the federal budget as being “on an unsustainable path — meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy.” Do you agree? How would you resolve this situation?

TW: Yes, I totally agree with the CBO. We are on a path for total financial disaster. See my answer to the previous question. Spending must be cut. Taxes should not be raised to pay for this irresponsible and reckless spending. Cut the spending. Our entitlement system is fundamentally bankrupt and must be dramatically reformed or they will financially ruin our country. I support a plan outlined by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called A Roadmap for America’s Future. It details an executable plan to reign in our entitlement program and get our overall federal budget under control.

NOOZHAWK: Is tax reform needed? Do you support a value-added tax? Why or why not? Should it replace another tax or should it be an additional assessment?

TW: Tax reform is drastically needed. I absolutely oppose a value-added tax. Our tax system acts as a gigantic anchor on our economy. It distorts incentives, is highly inefficient, and is driving business offshore. We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. A VAT tax is the fastest way to kill the American Dream. Europe has a VAT tax, sometimes as high as 20 percent. The average European has a 30 percent lower standard of living than the average American. Coincidence, or cause and effect? Every dollar taken out of the private economy by taxation is a dollar not at work creating wealth. A dollar left in the private sector will turn into $1.05 as businesses take risk and grow. A dollar confiscated by the government in taxation instantly turns into 79 cents to pay for the cost of government. Where would you invest? In general, a consumption tax is less economically disruptive than an income tax, but without repealing the income tax, the VAT tax is just another tax we don’t need that will hurt our economy.

NOOZHAWK: How, specifically, have Americans already benefited from the newly enacted health-care reform? What have been the disadvantages? How would you fix them?

TW: 85 percent of Americans are happy with their health care and health insurance. Why you would upend a system people are generally happy with to solve a problem that only about 3 percent of the country has makes no sense. We have a cost problem, not a care problem, and this bill does nothing to address the real problem we have and, in fact, will make it worse. The recently passed health-care reform will ultimately benefit nobody. It will raise costs, reduce choices and ultimately eliminate private care for most individuals. The 3 percent of the currently uninsurable may benefit in the short run but at the expense of the best health care available in the world. How does this make any sense? It is the tail wagging the dog. This bill is a disaster for our country and it needs to be repealed and replaced with market-based approaches that will address the actual problems we have with cost growth, without introducing more market-distorting government mandates and controls that have done much to create our current problems.

NOOZHAWK: Forgive the grammar, but are there any things that the federal government should do less of?

TW: Our Constitution gives the federal government limited powers and, specifically, through the 10th Amendment, states that all powers not delegated to the federal government remain with the states or the people. We have strayed badly from that obligation. Had we actually followed our Constitution we would not be in the situation we are now. Our immediate problem that must be addressed is to stop spending so much money. Second, stop trying to regulate every area of our lives, such as health care, energy use, financial services, etc.

NOOZHAWK: What are California’s three biggest problems? As a federal lawmaker, how can you help resolve them?

TW: California’s problems mirror our federal problems in many ways. Fundamentally, they both have a big spending problem. California also has a unique problem of over-regulation that costs our state nearly $500 billion per year in lost economic activity and drives business out of our great state. Third, California has an untenable public-pension liability that is unpayable. These problems are all self-created problems for our state and they are the state’s responsibility to fix. As a congressman, I would fight to reduce costly unfunded mandates for the states and the burden created by Medicaid. We need to leave California’s money in California and not send so much of back to Washington to have it sent back with strings attached.

NOOZHAWK: Energy security and sustainability are major challenges for the United States. What policies do you or would you support to meet the U.S. energy demand while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

TW: Energy, growth and standard of living are inexorably linked. Our security as a country is also strongly linked to the availability of reliable supplies of cost-effective energy. Industry requires energy. Individuals require energy. Innovation requires energy. Services require energy. Energy is a fundamental input to nearly every human activity. Every new drug we invent, every crop we grow, every house we build, every bottle of wine we bottle, every new microprocessor we design, every new telecommunications satellite we launch, every new iPhone or similar device we invent, requires energy input at every level of invention and manufacture. It’s clear that cost-effective energy is critical to the long-term health of our country and we need to effectively exploit our own natural resources and make greater use of nuclear power.

At the same time, Americans have an obligation and responsibility to protect and preserve our environment and leave behind a healthy and sustainable planet. These can be and are mutually supportable goals if we wisely use our boundless ingenuity to meet these objectives. Technological advances allow us to use our natural resources in ways that have minimal impact on our environment; we need to use our natural technological edge to our advantage. And Washington needs public servants who understand how to use technology to reconcile the need for energy with environmental sensitivity.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support offshore oil drilling in California? Why or why not? How about the Paredon project (Measure J) in Carpinteria? And the PXP Tranquillon Ridge Project?

TW: To add to my answer to the previous question, we need to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. As long as the risks are well measured and mitigated, I am generally favorably disposed to these kinds of energy production. Slant drilling has proven to be effective and safe — much safer than oil tankers. The voters will have their say on Measure J and we will see. Our fiscal woes in California on both the state and local level are so severe that the tax revenue and jobs created by such projects would go a long way to ameliorating our currently untenable prognosis.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the cap-and-trade bill that Congress may resurrect this year? Why or why not?

TW: Absolutely not! This bill is an economic disaster for our country and is nothing more than a way to control our behavior and pick our pockets. The average family would face thousands of dollars per year of extra energy costs. It will do nothing of any significance to abating carbon emissions, but will cost our economy dearly in terms of jobs and growth. California’s own poorly thought out global warming bill, AB 32, is already driving business out of the state.

NOOZHAWK: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are losing taxpayer money at alarming rates — a combined more than $20 billion alone in this last quarter on top of a $145 billion bailout. With no turnaround in sight, is it realistic to expect these entities to actually stabilize the housing and mortgage markets? Have they outlived their usefulness? What is an alternative?

TW: Fannie and Freddie need to be taken off the taxpayer dole as soon as practicable and sold on the public market or put in receivership. Both of these organizations played a key role in the current meltdown by providing a secondary market, at the urging of Congress, to give banks an outlet for high-risk loans, also at the urging of our government, that had an implicit government guarantee. The conditions that allowed the housing meltdown to occur were largely created by the federal government. The market will create a secondary market on its own for loans if it makes economic sense and does not require government sponsorship. We don’t need more government interference or manipulating the market to achieve social goals, in this case home ownership. The housing market, like any market, is going to find its own bottom based on economic fundamentals — with or without government interference.

NOOZHAWK: Between Arizona’s recent crackdown on illegal immigration and the New York City bomb suspect allegedly traveling with relative ease back and forth to Pakistan, national security is under renewed scrutiny. Are our borders secure?

TW: No. Our borders are clearly not secure. We are a sovereign nation, we have a right and indeed a responsibility to control our borders and know who comes and goes in our country. If you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country. It is a matter of national security as much as anything.

NOOZHAWK: Which current or former congressman or woman do you admire most, and why?

TW: Of the current people in Congress, I greatly admire Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. He has laid out a serious and executable plan to get our country back on track and achieve a sustainable budget and entitlement programs.

NOOZHAWK: The Treasury Department recently unveiled a redesigned $100 bill. Amid all of the fancy anti-counterfeit measures, there appears to be plenty of room for a cool Noozhawk pin to be added to Ben Franklin’s lapel. Would you support such a fashion statement?

TW: Only if it has a picture of Santa Barbara in the background.

Additional Resources

Click here for Tom Watson’s campaign Web site

Click here for Republican congressional candidate John Davidson’s answers.

Click here for Republican congressional candidate Carole Miller’s answers.

Click here for Republican congressional candidate Dave Stockdale’s answers.

Click here for Republican congressional candidate Clark Vandeventer’s answers.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, did not respond to Noozhawk’s questions.

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